Suddenly, debate on both sides of the Atlantic centres on what was once seen as impossible – withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq.
Just two of the key architects of the Iraq war – George Bush and Tony Blair – remain in office. Both are yesterday’s men.
In 24 hours last week, Bush lost control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and had to say goodbye to his hardline defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
For months, as the death rate in Iraq soared, Bush and Blair repeated their mantra that they would “stay the course” and maintain the occupation.
Now their tune has changed radically.
Bush claims that he is awaiting the Iraq Study Group’s report on the way ahead for the US in Iraq, expected early next year.
Blair appeared before the Study Group on Tuesday of this week.
While his whips dragooned Labour MPs through the lobbies to vote down any inquiry into the war in Britain, the Washington Post reported that he “has been anxious to talk to the panel” in the US.
The Study Group is led by former US secretary of state James Baker, who served both Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior, and the Democrat Lee Hamilton, who is a member of Bush’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
The rest of the group is made up of Washington insiders.
Nonetheless, Bush’s interest in the Study Group’s findings marks a major shift.
The hardcore neoconservatives with whom Bush surrounded himself are being sidelined in favour of traditional, mainstream Republicans.
Baker, like Blair, has openly suggested seeking Iran’s help in policing the Iraqi resistance.
It is widely believed that the Study Group is considering three options for the US presence in Iraq – staying the course, setting a date for pulling out or partial withdrawal leaving US forces in permanent bases in Iraq and neighbouring states.
The overriding concern of the US establishment is to avoid the humiliation that followed the US’s defeat in Vietnam.
For the majority at the bottom of US society the priority is to end the increasingly bloody occupation. The Democrats secured their poll success on the back of mushrooming opposition to the Iraq war.
But they are deeply divided on Iraq.
Many parade their desire for a bipartisan policy with Bush. Some talk of a pull out beginning in six months, other in 18 months. Presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton wants to commit more US troops.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the new speaker of congress, Nancy Pelosi, “is privately trying to insist that liberals damp down expectations of getting out of Iraq now. Democratic allies in the House say she wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise the new recruits’ electoral future, and by extension Democrats’ newfound power.”
The key concern of Pelosi, Hilary Clinton and other leading Democrats is to readjust to limit US losses in the Middle East, but maintain a grip on the region.
However, the debate on withdrawal from Iraq is now out in the open. That is to the credit of the global anti-war movement on both sides of the Atlantic.
Over the coming weeks, we need to mobilise to get US and British troops out of Iraq, with no delay.